June 13, 2013
Virginia Game Board Endorses Weak Fox Pen Regulations
Coalition to protect wildlife and dogs formed in response
Despite the objections of more than 2,000 Virginians, the Virginia Game Board passed new fox pen regulations that do little to stop dogs from killing foxes within these pens. In response to the weak regulations, animal welfare organizations are banding together to form the Coalition For Fair Conservation to end fox pens in Virginia.
The most noteworthy regulations passed will prohibit cash prizes for staged competitions within pens, require rounded fence corners and lower the number of dogs that can pursue the captive foxes. However, two of these regulations would require a conservation officer to be present in each fox pen for every event to be enforced. In addition, these regulations still allow bartering and stocking foxes, a public resource, behind fences for private, staged competitions.
Laura Donahue, Virginia state director for The HSUS said: “The agency’s own study proved that foxes are killed by dogs at an alarming rate within these pens. The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries could have curbed animal suffering in fox pens, but instead the Board largely endorsed business as usual.”
The Coalition For Fair Conservation brings together local and national organizations including, Animal Rescue of Tidewater, Animal Welfare League of Arlington, the ASPCA (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), Born Free USA, Earth Stewardship Alliance, Humane Dominion, The Humane Society of the United States, Norfolk SPCA, Portsmouth Humane Society, Project Coyote, Richmond SPCA, Rockingham-Harrisonburg SPCA and The Virginia Federation of Humane Societies. The coalition will spend the months prior to the 2014 legislative session organizing Virginians opposed to fox pens and assisting them in meetings with their policymakers.
During a 60 day public feedback process, the DGIF received more than 2,000 comments from Virginia animal advocates calling for an end to fox penning.
Ann Church, vice president of state affairs for the ASPCA said: “While it is encouraging that the Board voted to eliminate cash prizes for staged competitions, it is still a blight on the Commonwealth to allow this horrifying cruelty for wildlife and dogs and abuse of public resources on Virginia soil. Fox pens are a bloodsport – they are staged fights where animals are forced to engage in bloody battles until some die, and this unnecessary cruelty has no place in our great state.”
Debra Griggs, president of the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies said: “These regulations are at best Band-Aids but do nothing to address the root problems. New regulations such as requiring ’rounded fence corners’ only serve to remind us how barbaric pitting captive animals against each other is. We look forward to working with the Coalition for Fair Conservation to stop fox pens.”
- Fox pens are fenced enclosures where dogs are released to chase wild-caught, stocked foxes, often killing them. More than 6,000 foxes were subjected to these unethical and inhumane events in Virginia in the last five years.
- During the regulation review process, the DGIF announced a study that revealed most foxes do not survive long in pens, with many of them killed during competitions. In the state’s largest fox pen, more than half of the foxes studied were killed during just one competition.
- On Oct. 18, 2012, the Board voted unanimously to consider increased fox pen regulations during the 2013 review process.
- Dogs often harm and kill the fenced wildlife, fueling a constant – and often illegal – interstate demand to stock enclosures with more foxes.
- In the fall of 2007, a multi-state sting of fox and coyote pens uncovered the interstate smuggling of wildlife for sale to these pens. Virginia officials temporarily shut down 31 of the Commonwealth’s 41 pens.
- Captive fenced wildlife facilities are historically responsible for the spread of some strains of rabies and other deadly wildlife diseases.
More information is available at humanesociety.org/Virginia.
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